Awakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholeness
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Tag Archives: Wholeness
This Saturday I will be participating with other area authors in the Sixth Annual Asheville Bookfest at the Haywood Park Hotel in the Atrium from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. For the schedule see http://www.ashevillebookfest.com/bookfest-events.html.
Four other authors and I will be reading at 4:30 followed by Thomas Rain Crowe, the featured speaker.
For several years, I was a member of a spiritual group that met once a month to share our spiritual journeys and to participate in programs that would teach us new spiritual techniques and expose us to a wide variety of spiritual beliefs. It was one of the most enriching and inspiring experiences I’ve ever had, and I learned so much from what others shared.
I’m very excited about participating in the Interfaith Dialogue series on Thursday, June 19 at Grateful Steps Bookshop in Asheville, NC at 159 So. Lexington Ave. I will present short readings from my memoir Awakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholeness. As I read excerpts related to my spiritual journey, we will discuss the concepts presented and share experiences. The event is free.
My memoir Awakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholeness is the story of a my search to find an authentic identity, creative expression, and a spirituality apart from traditional religion. Although this spiritual journey began with attending a traditional church, I soon found that it was my love of dance and drama that really touched my spirit. Through modern dance, I discovered the oneness of the mind body connection, and later began to explore other spiritual practices. One by one, I enthusiastically explored techniques to release my fear, Buddhist teachings and meditation, Jungian dream interpretation, and Science of Mind manifestation techniques. Each led me more closely to an authentic identity and a wholeness that transformed my life.
This is an opportunity to share and explore our beliefs, so please join us.
“Home is oneness, home is my original nature. It is right here, simply in what is. There is nowhere else I have to go, and nothing else I have to become.” Tony Parsons
Is home a place for you or an experience? What are the qualities you associate with home? How do the experiences you have in a place affect your concept of home?
I didn’t grow up in one place and know it intimately as people do when they’ve lived forever in a town. Not having experienced that, I can only fantasize about the security it must give one, a place where one truly belongs. But I’ve always been attracted to a wider field, to the infinite variety of cultures and perspectives of people who have risked and fallen over the edges where safety begins.
I’ve lived outside the box, often longing to want what is in it so that I would fit into the world around me more easily. But whenever I’ve crawled inside and tried to stay there, I’ve been discovered as a fraud and turned away, rejected as unsuited for that particular mold. Although it was painful at the time, I’m grateful for the circumstances that pushed me out into places where I learned things I would never have learned otherwise.
Cold Winters Develop Resilience
For example, living in Nebraska, I learned that many farmers (even those with mechanized farms) still planted by the phases of the moon although they never admitted it. These were the descendents of pioneers who had survived the harsh cold deprivation of every kind and the unrelenting winds that howled so high and long that some went mad trying to settle this unforgiving land.
After my first winter there, facing over 30 straight days below 0, locked in a land of ice, I developed a new respect for my neighbors. It took strength and perseverance just to walk across the street in winter. The joke was that if the wind stopped blowing everyone would fall down. But behind all that ice, I found plenty of warm hearts and prairie humor.
What We Resist May Persist
After my brother, his family and my parents all moved to New Orleans, I used to say I loved to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I wasn’t a party person, didn’t drink much, and ate healthy food; besides, it was sweltering all year round. But, despite my original protests, I moved there because I wanted to see my nephews and niece grow up. Seduced by New Orleans’ unique culture, I stayed for 12 years.
It was a love-hate relationship from the start, like trying to love a faithless man who, nevertheless, touches the romance in your soul and makes you laugh like Dionysus himself. How could any writer not be enchanted with the French Quarter, standing on St. Peter beneath the apartment where Tennessee Williams completed “Streetcar Named Desire” or wandering through the dark, ancient alleys that inspired Anne Rice’s vampires?
In New Orleans I learned that punctuality wasn’t always a virtue, Mama was always Queen, a little lagniappe adds spice to life, and how to play like I was going to die tomorrow.
Joy May Sometimes Hide Despair
I also learned about aching poverty, that some high school restrooms were so filthy kids cut class to run home and use a clean toilet, that school administrators had virtually no resources except hearts large enough to embrace the world. I taught a crack baby turned 14 who could never sit still and saw the price everyone pays for allowing there to be a large, poorly educated underclass. I taught kids whose fathers and brothers had been murdered and who mourned with despair when their favorite music teacher was gunned down. I learned about anger and compassion.
All People Are One
Then I went to West Africa, traveling with other teachers on a Fulbright-Hays Travel Abroad Grant to study the literature and culture. After flying all night, we landed with the sunrise in Dakar, Senegal on the edge of the Sahara Desert, and as I stepped onto the ground, I was overwhelmed with the feeling I was home in the deepest sense.
Of course, the food was similar to the gumbos and jambalaya of New Orleans—most slaves brought to New Orleans had come from there—and I could hear the beginnings of jazz in the syncopated rhythms of the drums. But, it was more than that and more than the fact that humans originated in Africa.
Living Close to Nature Makes Us One
In that land, people still lived close to nature, the way I had as a child, eating from a garden and talking to the spirits of trees. There, even Christians and Muslims integrated their traditional animistic spirituality into their daily lives. These were people who offered the tea of friendship before they asked why you were there, whose lives were vibrant with the celebrations of rituals that gave meaning to each passage in life.
What Feels Like Home May Be An Illusion
Years later when I moved from New Orleans to New Mexico, I felt I had found my soul’s home at last. Sunsets spread across the sky—hot pink turning to burgundy and orange melting into violet, indigo and deep space black. On New Year’s Day, cold and crisp, the air was filled with the songs of the Corn Dance at Santa Domingo Pueblo, where the whole community danced together in sacred harmony.
But despite my love for this natural world and the indigenous culture there, in the world of my people there was no harmony for me. Along with the beauty existed the reality of an earth blood-soaked with genocide, the energy of hate, and a need to protect lies. Trying to speak the truth in my life and about the students I taught, I lost my friends, my spiritual community and my work. The desert stripped me; my bones were burned bare by the sun.
Wholeness May Be Born From Pain
One night, in the midst of this pain and darkness, I dreamed that as I wandered through a new apartment, I found a darkened cave-like room with a high domed ceiling and rock floor. Turning on the light, there stood before me a towering ancient cathedral, a holy place at the center of my being. I learned I was finally whole.
I still sometimes envy those who live where their ancestors settled decades ago. But I know that if I had enjoyed such comfort all my life that security would have become a place for me to hide from the unknown. Instead I have learned that we are all One, and I have a freedom I never dreamed possible because—everywhere I go, I’m home.
What is home to you? Please Comment.
© 2006 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5
“Each and every master, regardless of the era or place, heard the call and attained harmony with heaven and earth. There are many paths leading to the top of Mt. Fuji, but there is only one summit – love.” Morihei Ueshiba
What is the pinnacle of your success? How do you know when you have reached the summit of your journey? Was it what you expected it to be?
Last weekend, a friend and I drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the autumn colors at their peak. With trees covering the roadway much of the way, we traveled through a tunnel that at times glowed with the yellow of tulip poplar and the bronze of beech. At another turn in the road, the light was transformed by the red of maples and sourwood. Like crystal sparkling, the light played through leaves and branches luring us into another world inhabited only by nature.
Our Expectations May Lead to Disappointment
We were seduced by its beauty into believing that, at our destination, the colors would be at perfect peak. When we arrived at Craggy Gardens, the mountains were, for the most part, a lovely array of the usual red, orange, and yellow that we expected, but not as intense as I had seen them in the past, and on some hillsides the trees were already stripped of their leaves. It was beautiful—just not as brilliant as I had hoped. I was disappointed.
We hiked up the side of the mountain to 5,500 feet to a bald, a treeless area at the summit where there is only low-growing vegetation. At other times of the year, blueberries and rhododendron grow there, but at this time of year there is little colorful vegetation and the grass is mostly brown; however if one looked beyond what was in the immediate foreground, a beautiful and breath-taking vista opened.
A Higher Perspective May Open Our Minds to the Beauty of Life
The sky was clear and intensely blue with wisps of cirrus clouds streaming over the mountains. Meandering streams and roadways danced through the hills, creating a patch work of light, shadow and color. Beyond the bald, where most of nature was sleeping, we looked out on a vibrant world. When we focused on the broader perspective from this higher place, we saw beauty, not desolation, and above our heads, silhouetted against the blue sky, were the bright red berries of a mountain ash.
In life, as in nature, we experience the beautiful with the mundane or disappointing. Even when we reach the summit of our careers and live out our greatest dreams, they may not be what we expected. In my twenties I thought that my life would be perfect if I could only dance with a modern dance company. I felt I had reached the pinnacle of my success when, finally, that dream came true.
It was a beautiful and inspiring experience, but I experienced a great deal of physical pain and had far more stage fright than I’d ever had acting. The physical aspect of performing was a great disappointment, but from a spiritual and higher perspective, it was very rewarding. At times, dancing was transcendent, and as I taught and choreographed more, I realized it was not the performing I loved most—it was the teaching and making dances.
With time, I became more whole and able to see how the mind and body interacted. This broadened what I could teach others and helped me to improve my health. When I let go of my ego’s need to be a performer, I was able to see the value of dance from a higher perspective.
Nature May Remind Us That We Are All One
When my friend and I were hiking, we also went to Craggy Pinnacle, the highest spot in the area where we could see those magnificent mountains from a 360 degree view. There was something about standing in such place that allowed all expectations and focus on self to drop away. We were one with the world that surrounded us. From that place, there were no piles of trash or run down houses or torn up roadways or contentious neighbors. All the details blended with the beauty of nature.
In those moments at the top of the mountain, I forgot about the hillsides that were bare or that the red leaves weren’t as red this year as before. I forgot about the aching toe I’d stubbed on the way up or the hours of raking leaves ahead of me as the leaves blanketed my yard. I no longer mattered, for I was not separate from the beauty around me.
Love Opens Us to the Dance of Life
When we can view life from the summit, from a spiritual perspective, we are able to see the wholeness of a situation and love what is there. While my pursuit of dance was originally very ego based, as my mind opened, it became not only a spiritually-enlivening experience, but one that led me to share insights with others so that they could be helped by what I had learned. Reaching the pinnacle was really only the beginning of a life-long journey of learning to love my whole self and others and to discover there is so much more to the dance of life.
If you want to learn more about my journey, my memoir Awakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholeness is available at Amazon and Create Space.
Have you reached the pinnacle in some area of your life? What did you learn from it? Please share your thoughts.
© 2013 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5
“The supreme happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved–loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” Victor Hugo
We all need to feel we are loved, and that we are loved despite our imperfections, but often we set standards for ourselves and others that only create more stress and problems. At times we set goals or expectations that are impossible to meet, and when we or our friends don’t meet them, it damages our self-esteem and relationships.
Expecting Perfection Can Be Harmful
We all have ideas about the perfect relationship. We may even have a list of requirements that a potential partner or friend must have, but inevitably, if these standards are too high, we are setting up ourselves and our partner for failure. Ultimately what we really want is to be able to make mistakes and still be loved and respected.
Growing up, my parents had high expectations for me. I was intelligent, so they expected me to make A’s in school, which I often did. They also taught me to be kind and respectful to others and not to do or say things that would hurt others. As a Southern woman, my role was to take care of others, make them feel good, and put my needs last.
There was a lot of conflict between my parents so I developed the idea that I needed to do everything perfectly to prevent any further conflict. When I achieved what they wanted, I was rewarded with praise. This was before the days when parents bribed their children into doing what they wanted in order to receive toys or electronics.
Setting Standards Of Perfection May Cause Illness
I felt very nervous and fearful much of the time because my parents’ conflict was disturbing to me, and sometimes I was punished for what was a fairly small thing because they were so on edge. As a result I became a perfectionist well into adulthood. I experienced a great deal of anxiety around trying to meet high standards in school, relationships, and in work, and with time this stress contributed to my developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
When we expect too much from ourselves or others, we will inevitably be disappointed at some point. Stress caused by any condition affects our health in a negative way, but I didn’t realize the harm I was creating for myself until I attended a clinic where every health practitioner with whom I spoke told me not to be so hard on myself. Fortunately, they convinced me my perfectionist thinking was not healthy.
We Need To Accept Ourselves As We Are
At first, I was angry that they wanted me to lower my high standards. I was proud of having high standards and trying to be a really good person, but I had so little energy, I had no choice but to change. Having to limit my activity forced me to go deeper and explore why I needed to be so perfect. The more I explored this idea, the more I realized I thought I wouldn’t be loved or liked if I didn’t meet these expectations.
As I moved from believing things had to be done in a certain way to being more open and flexible, I learned to say “no” to situations that were too stressful or not truly beneficial. As I stopped expecting perfection from myself, I realized how difficult life could be for others and grew more empathetic. I learned to expect less from others. I also learned to accept my imperfections while also trying to change some things for the better without judging every step I took.
Loving Ourselves Helps Us To Love Others
I learned to love who I was—even when I was able to do little of what I wanted to do. I learned to love myself as I was. I knew I was doing the best I could everyday despite it being less than I had previously done. As I recovered from the illness, I came to value well-being so much that it became my priority, not what I achieved in the eyes of the world.
Learning to love ourselves compassionately teaches us how to love others, and what we all want most is to be loved for who we really are. As I came to love myself more, I was able to love more generously and accept others’ irritating qualities with more compassion. I learned to love them for who they truly were.
The most wonderful love we can experience is with someone who really knows us and accepts our eccentricities and difficult aspects. We know that we do not have to be perfect—that we can be human and make mistakes and still be loved. It also gives us an opportunity to grow in our love, to say, “Well, I didn’t handle that well, but I can do better the next time,” and to take the time to contemplate a more effective or caring response to the problem that arose.
Love comes From Within Not From Without
I’ve met many people who do not love themselves, and in order to prove to themselves that they are loving, they exhaust themselves doing good deeds for others. However, when we act in this manner, we aren’t acting from love; we are acting from a wounded ego. When we do for others out of love, we do not feel we have to ignore our own needs, and we balance our time between taking care of ourselves and caring for others.
With the exception of abuse, we may grow by learning to accept aspects of our partners and friends that don’t always please us. Of course, there are always limits to what is healthy and appropriate in a relationship, but if there truly is enough there to make the relationship good, we need to exercise the effort to accept and hopefully understand those things about our partner that irritate us and have compassion for their struggle.
Wholeness Includes Loving All Of Who We Are
In talking with friends who have been married many years, I am always impressed with how they have grown together, adjusting and changing as needed to make the relationship more workable for both. But it is clear that the one thing that holds them together is this—they know they are each loved for who they truly are, for their best qualities and their most irritating ones.
Learning to give to others what we want in return tends to draw to us that same energy. One of the most profound thoughts I’ve read in Oneness by Rasha is this: “The key to the self-mastery that is so fervently sought by you who are so keenly aware of your process of evolution, is not to love yourself despite your perceived shortcomings—but rather, to love yourself because of them. In your embracing of all that you Are…is the unconditional gift of wholeness that awaits you.” (p. 238)
These challenges we face in relationships reveal to us aspects of ourselves we may rather not see; yet they offer us opportunities for growth and challenges in loving ourselves and others. Let us learn to love all of who we are and share that understanding and love with others. Only love will heal the world.
© 2013 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” E. F. SchumacheR
A few months ago, my life was so full I felt I was in constant motion. I was promoting my memoir Awakening to the Dance: A Journey to Wholenesswith book signings, and I met a wonderful man and began a relationship with him. Combined with the usual things one has to take care of in life, I was fairly overwhelmed. As a result, I stopped going to the spiritual celebration I often attend on Sundays because I needed time for myself.
When We Feel Anger, We Need To Take A Breath
Then one day, I did attend the Sunday celebration, and as I entered the building, I ran into a young man I hardly knew who greeted me. “Good to see you. We haven’t seen you in a long time. You did your presentation and sold your books; then you disappeared.”
Wow! I’m sure my face was red with the anger I felt. How dare he suggest I just used my community in this way! I’d been there nearly every Sunday for eight years! I hardly knew this person and he knew nothing about my personal life. A dozen angry responses flashed through my mind—but I took a deep breath, decided to be direct, and said, “Well, I was really exhausted after I finished the book. Then I had to do all the promotional stuff, and I’m now in a relationship. I just needed time to take care of myself.”
Another person walked up to us and I was able to slip away, thankful that I’d been able to respond with an explanation that would perhaps make him realize his assumption had been wrong. I was also pleased with the restraint I’d shown. When I calmed down and thought about what he had said, I realized it reflected some issue he was struggling with.
Our Issues Are About The Ego
We all have our issues and when those buttons get punched, it is so easy to act in a way we will regret later. Inevitably, if we just react emotionally, without taking a deep breath first, we create more of a problem, making the problem “bigger, more complex, and more violent” as Schumacher suggests. Pausing to take that breath before responding reminds us we are in the moment and need to respond in the moment from the heart, not in response to our injured ego that wants revenge, attention or is responding to our past negative experiences.
In taking that breath, we are also affirming we want peace, and it may allow us to see the source of the discomfort for the other person. Taking a breath allows us to notice the tone of his voice or the expression on his face and that may guide us to respond in a positive way. I realized instantly that the young man who spoke to me knew nothing about my personal life, and that being open to him might create a bridge of understanding.
It Takes Courage To Be Peaceful When Others Are Not
I don’t agree with Schumacher that choosing the more peaceful path requires genius. I think it’s just common sense, but in a world where we’re still fighting wars and most television shows are about violence, it does sometimes take courage to take a different path. It takes courage in order to go against what those around us believe, especially if they are friends or family.
I taught high school English for years and was often appalled by the hateful things teens said to each other, even to their friends. When students chose not to engage in that disrespectful behavior, they were often ostracized, so the penalty for nonconformity was huge.
I once had a student ask me if I thought most people were good. I answered that, yes, I thought most people were basically good. She responded that she didn’t agree—she thought most people were mean. With that as the basis of her thinking, it is not surprising that she often responded hatefully to others. She wanted to hurt them before they hurt her.
Our Responses Reflect Who We Are
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter whether others are good or hateful. How we respond in every situation is our choice and we have to live with it. We have to decide who we want to be. Do we want to be the one who comes back with a more hateful remark or do we want to be the one who creates a bridge or lets the emotional charge from our opponent die because we choose not to feed their negativity with ours?
Courage Comes From The Heart
When we are in doubt about how to respond to a negative situation, it is always wise to take a breath and consult the heart. Responding out of love and peace is never a bad choice, and it doesn’t mean that we are weak by not confronting the anger or hatefulness in another. We can still hold to our point of view, but when we do that from a peaceful base, it is more likely to be heard by others. It may then be possible to turn an argument into a conversation or a misunderstanding into friendship. Courage is most powerful when it comes from the heart.
© 2013 Georganne Spruce ZQT4PQ5ZN7F5